Two Forewords

(notes edited by John Radcliffe and John McGivering)


In 1897, when the firm of Charles Scribner’s Sons was publishing in America its first set of volumes of the Outward Bound Edition of the Writings in Prose and Verse of Rudyard Kipling, the author sent to the late F. N. Doubleday a note which he called ‘A Letter or Bill of Instruction from the Owner.’ It was printed as a Foreword to the first volume of that edition. Not long afterwards F. N. Doubleday left Scribner’s to lay the foundations of Doubleday, McClure & Co., subsequently Doubleday, Page & Co., and now Doubleday, Doran & Co.  T

The 1935 ‘Foreword’ is in the form of a letter to Nelson Doubleday, by then a partner of Doubleday Doran and Company, as the ‘Foreword’ to A Kipling Pageant (1935) which included thirty-seven stories and fifty-two poems.

The two Forewords were published together in a separate volume in 1935, and presented by the publishers to their friends and associates. They are collected as “Two Forewords” in the Sussex vol. xxx and Burwash vol. xxiii, editions.

Kipling and the Doubledays

In 1897 the firm of Charles Scribner & Sons was publishing in America its first set of volumes of the Outward Bound Edition. Frank N. Doubleday (1862-1934) the manager of the firm, became a close friend of Kipling, and was addressed by him as “Effendi”. In Something of Myself (pp. 125-6), Kipling writes of Doubleday visiting him at his house in Vermont in 1895:

To ‘Naulakha,’ on a wet day, came from Scribner’s of New York a large young man called Frank Doubleday, with a proposal, among other things, for a complete edition of my then works.

One accepts or refuses things that really matter on personal and illogical grounds. We took to that young man at sight, and he and his wife became of our closest friends. In due time, when he was building up what turned into the great firm of Doubleday, Page & Co., and later Doubleday, Doran & Co., I handed over the American side of my business to him. Whereby I escaped many distractions for the rest of my life.

Frank’s son, Nelson Doubleday (1889-1949), the recipient of the 1935 “Foreword”, followed his father in the firm. A memorial notice for him recalled that Nelson, when a small boy, carried beef-tea to Kipling when he was ill in New York in 1899, and afterwards urged him to write some more Jungle Book stories. When the Just So Stories were published in 1902, Nelson received two cents from his father for every copy sold. (This was recalled by Nelson in a new edition of the Jungle Books published just before his death.)

There are seven references to the Doubledays in the Kipling Journal (KJ 011/1 & 5, 029/07, 051/22, 089/02 & 10, 092/17, 140/19, and 146/02) and two to the Outward Bound Edition (KJ 074/15 and 228/42).

The ‘Forewords’

In both the author instructs his publishers to conduct affairs in a seamanlike manner, using a series of nautical metaphors, couched—as in “The Butterfly that Stamped” (Just So Stories) or “Railway Reform in Great Britain”—in language which reads like The Arabian Nights. Some of the metaphors are occasionally mixed, but it would be small-minded to quibble at such an entertaining little pastiche, so full of intriguing allusions.

In both he addresses his publisher as the skipper, theNakhoda, of a trading vessel— in 1897 an Arab dhow, in 1935 a steamship. Both are well founded and equipped, carrying his carefully written works across the sea as cargo to buyers who need to be persuaded with diplomatic skill to pay good prices for them. The Nakhoda, with good marketing judgement, must dwell craftily on the excellence and high reputation of the goods.


As a small boy Kipling had encountered, with delight, the exotic poetic language of the Victorian translations of Persian and Arab folk tales, of djinns and enchantments, of Haroun al Rashid and Sinbad the Sailor. In Something of Myself (p. 12), he writes of his visits to the Burne-Jones house in London, ‘The Grange’:

There was an incessant come and go of young people and grown-ups all willing to play with us—except an elderly person called ‘Browning,’ who took no proper interest in the skirmishes which happened to be raging on his entry. Best of all, immeasurably, was the beloved Aunt herself reading us The Pirate or The Arabian Nights of evenings, when one lay out on the big sofas sucking toffee, and calling our cousins ‘Ho, Son,’ or ‘Daughter of my Uncle’ or ‘ O True Believer.’

And Kipling, who loved ships and the sea, liked to use nautical metaphors about his work. Later in Something of Myself (p. 228), he writes:

… I dreamed for many years of building a veritable three-decker out of chosen and longstored timber-teak, green-heart, and ten-year-old oak knees—each curve melting deliciously into the next that the sea might nowhere meet resistance or weakness; the whole suggesting motion even when, her great sails for the moment furled, she lay in some needed haven—a vessel ballasted on ingots of pure research and knowledge, roomy, fitted with delicate cabinet-work below-decks, painted, carved, gilt and wreathed the length of her, from her blazing stern-galleries outlined by bronzy palm-trunks, to her rampant figure-head—an East Indiaman worthy to lie alongside The Cloister and the Hearth.

Not being able to do this, I dismissed the ambition as ‘beneath the thinking mind.’

Kipling became an Honourary Master Mariner in June 1927. (See Andrew Lycett p. 549).

Notes on the Text

The 1935 Foreword

Nakhoda the skipper of a Dhow, the traditional sailing vessel of the Indian Ocean. See “A Reinforcement” .

Henna a cosmetic used for dyeing hair and beards etc. made from the leaves of Egyptian privet – Lawsonia inermis.

thy father Frank Nelson Doubleday above.

Western ports the United States of America where Doubleday published. This was the biggest single market for books in the English-speaking world, as Kipling was well aware.

thee Nelson Doubleday.

through forty and five, thy Father and I ran our Western trade together It was forty years before, in 1895, that Frank Doubleday’s association with Kipling began. (see above).

tack for tack Against contrary winds a sailing ship has to make its way forward in ‘tacks’, a zigzag course, first to one side of the wind, and then the other. See “A Reinforcement” under ‘To put the helm hard up’. It was not easy to sell books.

bells and trumpets and clocks and wires … Voices out of the air or the waters to con the ship an echo of the speech Kipling wrote for the Christmas broadcast made by King George V in 1932 which was reported in The Times of Tuesday, 27 December of that year. See also our notes on “The Debt” (Limits and Renewals) for the text of the speech.

Kipling may have been toying with the idea of a ship controlled by radio from the shore. He was fascinated by the mysteries of communication via waves through the air, or through space, or over time.

the Sea has ceased to be the Sea see “The Last Chantey” .

up and down reciprocating engines, similar to that fitted in S.S. Haliotis – see “The Devil and the Deep Sea” The Day’s Work, page 152, line 16, et sequ.

with a rope’s end traditionally used at sea for punishment or just encouraging a sluggard, as when Harvery was slow in moving round the deck to learn about the rigging from Ling Jack, in Captains Courageous, page 77.

in time of sickness the Kiplings visited New York in 1899 – all were ill, Rudyard and Josephine very seriously. Rudyard recovered, but to his lasting sorrow, his much loved Josephine died. (See Charles Carrington, p. 287)

scattered their inheritance probably in the Great Depression of 1929 which began in America with the Wall Street crash; there was a world-wide slump which lasted until the beginning of the 1939-45 War. In all fields business was difficult, and many companies failed.

following winds ….hard steering Steering with the wind astern us probably the most dangerous point of sailing, with the risk of an accidental gybe.

gybed (The spelling varies). ‘Gybing’ is turning across the wind, a dangerous operation if accidental when running free (with the wind right aft). The boom will swing across the centreline of the boat, putting a great strain on spars and rigging and readily knocking heedless members of the crew over the side. See “A Reinforcement”, and The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, page 365.

my sojourn among them Kipling and his wife lived at Brattleboro’ in Vermont from 1892 to 1896. See Charles Carrington,
Chapters 8 and 9.

Voices out of the air Radio, a new and highly successful medium in the 1930s.

We will add ourselves to those noises We will do all possible to attract people to Kipling’s books, as an alternative to other sorts of entertainment, like radio. By the 1930s Kipling was not nearly as popular as he had been thirty or forty years before.

women bear loud part It seems Kipling did not much care for women’s magazines or fiction about ‘women’s issues’, growing sectors of the marketplace in the 1930s which did not interest him. Forty years before, his stories had typically been published in large circulation magazines, before being collected in books. Since then the media landscape had changed a good deal. Nelson had a harder task than his father.

Who, having found a Ruby… not traced.

our best trade will be among the children… The Jungle Books (1894/5) and Just So Stories (1902), written for children, had been spectacularly successfuk in their day. He is suggesting that people who had read them as children would introduce them to their own children—as has happened ever since.

Azil and Azara We not traced this ‘delectable tale’. The saying is on the lines of the Jesuit maxim: “Give me a child until he is seven and I will give you the man” which is attributed to Francis Xavier. People who come to love Kipling in their childhood will always love his tales.

they may buy perpetual abundance of my wares Many of Kipling’s early classics were still in print, and widely available in American bookstores. A Kipling Pageant was clearly intended to remind people of his qualities.

it is the buyer who buys Kipling knew well that, with the best will in the world, one often cannot ‘sell’ things. People have to come and buy them.

‘No ship so powerful as a modest eye’. Not traced, but maybe Kipling’s own.

I repented me …. perhaps a reference to unauthorised editions of Kipling’s work in America which prompted him to issue authorised editions (like Abaft the Funnel) which contained some items he would have preferred to forget – see Carrington p. 161. In the Preface to From Sea to Sea he refers to:

…the activity of various publishers who, not content with disinterring old newspaper work from the decent seclusion of office files, have in several instances seen fit to embellish it with additions and interpolations.

Harold Orel, (in Interviews and Recollections p. 298) reports Frank Doubleday’s horror at finding Kipling burning manuscripts at Bateman’s, presumably work he did not wish to see published.

pearls of Oman the Sultanate of Oman, a country on the south-east coast of the Arabian Peninsula bordering the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Yemen.

sand-ballast Additional weight stowed in a ship to improve her stability.

those idlers and sitters along the wharves The critics and fashionable literati of the day.

Queen-turquoise an opaque blue-green precious stone.
lac a resinous substance used for making varnish or paint. See “The Eye of Allah” (*Debits and Credits) p. 366:

The Sub-Cantor looked over his shoulder at the pinned-down sheet where the first words of the Magnificat were built up in gold washed with red-lac for a background to the Virgin’s hardly yet fired halo.

clinch the clinch secured the inboard end of the long hemp cable. He is saying ‘let them talk themselves out to the bitter end’. (See ‘the bitter end’ in The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, page 86.)

that Crow who said to the Tiger We have not traced this. It may be the translation of an Indian proverb or perhaps one of Kipling’s own.

Uncle of Owls Old fool.

thou, O Nakhoda, art young Nelson was forty-six, while Kipling was nearly seventy.

The 1897 Foreword

Aden port, and at that time an important British coaling-station, at the entrance to the Red Sea. It is now the capital of thr People’s Republic of South Yemen.

Muscat a port on the Gulf of the same name at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, where it opens to the Indian Ocean.

Monsoons seasonal winds in the Indian Ocean and Western Pacific.

  • the South West Monsoon May to September
  • the North East Monsoon October to April
  • the North West Monsoon November to March.

The monsoon ashore in India has an important effect on the climate, and is mentioned in many of the Indian stories, See The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, p. 557.

compass in this context a simple compass indicating magnetic north to assist navigation. In fact nakhodas often relied on the stars by night or “knew the way”. See Alan Villiers, Sons of Sinbad: The Great Tradition of Arab Seamanship (Hodder & Stoughton, 1940) page 17, and “Knights of the Joyous Venture” in Puck of Pook’s Hill.

Buggalow the Marathi (from Maharashtra in Western India) name for the type of dhow to be found on the western coast of India and the Persian Gulf. See Hobson-Jobson, p. 123, and Villiers (see above) Appendix 1. The spelling varies.

Sewree a district of Mumbai.

Sion Bunder a bunder is a landing-place, seaport etc. See Hobson-Jobson, page 127. There is a suburb of Mumbai named Sion.

mats some items of cargo were sewn up in mats made of grass, rushes etc.

selling anchors and cables see “King Henry VII and the Shipwrights.”

I do not believe all the stories… see the verse “Poseidon’s Law.”

The road is West and by South usually ‘West by South’ which is 11 ° 15’ South of West, and, from the South coast of England, would take the navigator down-Channel in the general direction of the Atlantic Ocean. Not to be taken too literally here.

bellowing sounding foghorns. There are a lot of competing publishers clamouring for attention.

iron ships had been made of steel for many years, though there may have been some iron ones left. Or perhaps Kipling’s nakhoda did not make the distinction.

early in the day In other words, Americans are brisk businessmen.

Bhao Malung not traced.

Jakaria Musjid perhaps Jama Masjid, a mosque in the Kalbadevi neighborhood, near Crawford Market in Mumbai.

‘The blind pay for him who hath eyes’ A saying we have not traced. it may well be one of Kipling’s own. Information will be appreciated.

Remember, too, that many of the cloths…. an echo of Something of Myself, p.190:

I worked the material in three or four overlaid tints and textures, which might or might not reveal themselves according to the shifting light of sex, youth, and experience. It was like working lacquer and mother-o’-pearl, a natural combination, into the same scheme as niello and grisaille, and trying not to let the joins show.

bilges the lowest part of the ship where filthy water etc. accumulates and is regularly pumped out. Some tales are not fit for children.

descend into the run Delve deeper to find Kipling’s hidden ideas and meanings.

The ‘run’ in this context is strictly the shape of the afterbody of the underwater section of a hull—see The Oxford Companion to Ships and the Sea, page 733. Here it is probably intended to mean the after-hold or lazaretto, in the depths of the ship, usually entered by a hatch from the cabin and under the control of the officers, which may contain choice and valuable items.

the small-arms and krises The tales of war. krises are daggers of characteristic wavy shape used by the Malay peoples.

certain great captains we have not yet traced these helpful publishers.

trimmed with a slack sheet a curious expression probably implying that the talk can be free and frank. To ‘trim’ a sail is to haul in or slack away the sheet(s) (ropes) that control it so as to obtain the best advantage of its work. A slack sheet would let the sail flap loose.

prick his own (chart) perhaps a version of ‘each to his own’, ‘make his own way’, or something similar.

one good slant If business is looking good, there is no need to press on too urgently. A ‘good slant’ is a wind blowing in the right direction for a sailing-vessel to hold her course.

It is not auspicious to use stray-gathered gear Kipling. like Shakespeare, gathered tales and ideas for many people and places, endlesssly inquisitive and questioning. But he was careful not to lay himself open to the charge of stealing other people’s work. See Something of Myself p. 213:

I was at the moment in Canada, where a young Englishman gave me, as a personal experience, a story of a body-snatching episode in deep snow, perpetrated in some lonely prairie-town and culminating in purest horror. To get it out of the system I wrote it detailedly, and it came away just a shade too good; too well-balanced; too slick. I put it aside, not that I was actively uneasy about it, but I wanted to make sure.
Months passed, and I started a tooth which I took to the dentist in the little American town near ‘Naulakha.’ I had to wait a while in his parlour, where I found a file of bound Harper’s Magazines—say six hundred pages to the volume—dating from the ’fifties. I picked up one, and read as undistractedly as the tooth permitted. There I found my tale, identical in every mark—frozen ground, frozen corpse stiff in its fur robes in the buggy—the inn-keeper offering it a drink—and so on to the ghastly end. Had I published that tale, what could have saved me from the charge of deliberate plagiarism?

salaams courteous gestures (or words) of salutation.

black water the open sea, the ocean. In the uncertain seas of writing for profit one has to take one’s chance.

[J. H. McG./ J.R.]

©John McGivering and John Radcliffe 2010 All rights reserved